The number of NNESTs (non native english
s) is growing in the field of ELT (english
Language teaching) while yet many people (among english teacher
s and sometimes english
students) may consider NNESTs as less competent and eligible than NESTs (native english
s). Those last ones have indeed a feel for english
nuances and for the use of its idiomatic expressions, and, speak english
fluently. Does that make native english
speakers automatically qualified for teaching the language? Can NNESTs be effective teacher
In this article we will see that NNESTs have also their strengths and that they can even have some advantages on native english
Are NNESTs qualified for teaching english
‘How can you claim to teach english
when it's not even your own language?' was the exclamation of a native english teacher
to her German colleague reported by William Bradridge from Global english tesol courses
. At first sight, this exclamation can make sense. Who else than a native speaker can master the language better?
Fluency, ease with idiomatic expressions and nuances of the language are certainly elements which are required when teaching english
. However, as reported by Rosie Maum, ‘people do not become qualified to teach english
merely because it is their mother tongue, and much of the knowledge that native speakers bring intrinsically to the esl
classroom can be learned by NNESTs through teacher
training '. We think more specifically about the appropriate use of idioms, the appreciation of the cultural connotations of the language, and the ability to determine if a given language form is correct. In addition, let's take into consideration the fact that teacher
s have preparation time before their teaching and therefore keep the lesson under control. Yes, some NNESTs have to provide with extra efforts in that stage of their work for instance to check the pronunciation or the meaning of unfamiliar words. Should a question the teacher
cannot answer occurs in the classroom, that is not a real issue to tell students that he/she would prefer to give a more thorough explanation by the next lesson. This can also happen with native speakers as we have already experienced ourselves while teaching french
, which is our mother tongue… Finally, some of NNESTs have studied english
‘in far more depth and detail than native english teacher
s' . Once again, according to our own experience in teaching french
, we've been several times amazed by the in depth knowledge of grammar demonstrated by our fellow vietnamese
The real drawback of most of the NNESTs could be their (more or less) slightly accented english
. Having said that, since english
is an international language and therefore spoken by so many people worldwide, we could argue that provided that the pronunciation is fair enough to provide with a good communication (stress patterns respected) a ‘perfect ' english
accent is not absolutely compulsory.
Advantages of NNESTs
The NNESTs speak at least two languages and, as a result, they have already been in the position of a student acquiring another language. Therefore, they can empathise more closely with their esl
students. To strengthen the point, we can add Rosie Maum's comment: ‘they have first-hand experience in learning and using a second language, and their personal experience has sensitized them to the linguistic and cultural needs of their students. Many NNESTs, especially those who have the same first language as their students, have developed a keen awareness of the differences between english
and their students' mother tongue. This sensitivity gives them the ability to anticipate their students' linguistic problems'. So if NESTs can be considered as good language models for their students, NNESTs on the other hand are good learner models for their students since they had to get through the learning process of acquiring a second language and possess therefore a good understanding of strategies which have to be implemented in the acquisition of another language.
How can a NNEST overcome "the native speaker fallacy "?
These terms refer to the unfair treatment of qualified NNESTs. Rosie Maum has reported that ‘Native english
speakers without teaching qualifications are more likely to be hired as esl teacher
s than qualified and experienced NNESTs (…)' William Bradridge has proposed some valid options for motivated NNESTs . At first, they have to be Tesl
qualified, then, they should keep studying english
is always changing and finally they should get involved by, for instance, joining a reputable association such as IAtefl
and certainly stay up to date with the latest ideas for the classroom.
The number of NNESTs is growing in the field of ELT despite they still have to suffer ‘the native speaker fallacy” as described by Phillipson. However, we've seen that NNESTs can be effective english teacher
s provided that they are well prepared and Tesl certified
. Furthermore, their experience in learning effectively at least a second language is a real plus since they can empathise with their esl
students and, in that sense, be considered as learner models by their students. To counter this “native speaker fallacy”, NNESTs should be more determined and committed in finding esl jobs
than NETs but their growing number in the market has to be perceived as an encouraging sign.